Since her time as a student at ICA Cristo Rey Jimena Kirk has carried herself with confidence and positivity. “I love seeing my students grow! This year, I’m lucky to have students who I’ve had for three years, and I’m particularly proud of my Spanish 1 class.”
As well, Ms. Kirk is the Spanish-language voice for ICA Cristo Rey, responsible for all messaging translations, which have been particularly critical during this time of campus closure. In conversation with Jimena, the intimacy of the student/teacher relationship takes on a new look, as she laughingly shared: “By now my students know my whole apartment, as I move around trying to find a quiet space.” The familiar story of sheltering in place with others is shared by many of us.
When prompted, Jimena did share that she has been concerned about a few students. “I’ve been communicating with each, one by one,” she said. In the early stages of campus closure there were over a dozen students she hadn’t heard from and that was understandably worrisome. “I started reaching out individually. It let me give them the little extra push that they needed. Honestly, I’m sad I can’t do more for them. Sometimes their replies are about family issues, or how unmotivating it is to be stuck at home. It’s hard for all of us; as adults we’ve cultivated more discipline around keeping to a schedule. Students are finding that really hard. Because I can’t talk to them face to face, I find it frustrating on a personal level. I do worry about their mental and emotional health.”
True to form, she has stayed engaged and shared more of her experience of distance teaching. “Weekly agendas are my big ‘aha moment.’ I have always had a plan for myself but now it’s written specifically for the students. I’ve been posting an agenda on Sunday and then posting all of my assignments for the week on Monday. It was initially intended as a tool for students right now, but the time-saving aspect for me is going to make it worth keeping.
“It’s not a revolutionary idea, but before [when class was on campus] I always wanted to be flexible so I could account for interruptions and respond to interactions. Conversation with students is such a valuable thing, but this gives me time to plan and grade now, I have more time to create resources for them. So I will be continuing to use this with classes [when we return].”
As the World Languages Chair, she’s noted new intentionality in department meetings. “We check in with each other about how we are feeling if there is anything keeping us from our goals, and looking for ways we can support each other in this current model form of teaching off-campus.” All of the departments are discussing a lot of new things, driven by the Academic Leadership Council: “We’ve talked about the weight of finals, looking at pass/fail options… it’s hard to know how these choices will end up impacting the futures of our students.
“We also get to plan for the future. We are looking at AP placements for next year and making decisions about where we’re stopping in the curriculum this year. So we all know that starting point. In some ways, it’s very much the same as it has been [before campus closure].” Normalcy is a nice feeling now. It is with confidence that our school is looking to enter the 2020-2021 school year.